Headline, £5.99, ISBN 0-7472-6616-6
Contemporary Fiction, 2001
More silly fun from Wendy Holden, only this time she decides to move to the English countryside for her humiliation of her characters. Pastures Nouveaux is pure fluffy fun, and it could have worked better if the author hasn’t tried to make her heroine Rosie carry the story towards the end.
This one stays faithfully to the “dumb bimbo sticks to Mr Wrong until the last chapter” formula while pushing a little at the boundaries of the formula. Rosie is an illustrator who is living with Mark in London. Rosie’s biggest dream is to live in a country cottage, but she just couldn’t do anything unless Mark gives his seal of approval first. But when Mark gets a column of his own in a newspaper all about country life quirks, they pack up to the countryside. Isn’t it wonderful, Rosie thinks – finally, her man has decided to do something about her, sorry, their dream of living in the countryside!
At the other end of town, B-grade movie star Samantha is also having yearnings for country life. Never mind that she has just spent millions of pounds from her millionaire husband Guy’s fortunes to renovate their city home. See, Samantha is doing “research” about her new role as a seductive barmaid in some B-grade movie when she stumbles upon these descriptions of country life in a book. She must have a life like this! And when Guy has a heart attack and is forced to stay in the hospital, Samantha quickly sells off the city manor, buys a country manor called Eight Miles Bottom, and make everything fait accompli when hubby gets out of the hospital. “Surprise!”
The fun, of course, is in both Mark and Samantha’s delusions about country life. Samantha envisions a life of sipping champagne and organizing theater on her castle grounds, but she soon learns that her house is not Buckingham Palace but the Amityville Horror. Mark pictures country life as something “exotic” and is most disgusted when he finds that country life is all about cattle and dung.
There are many silly subplots, but really, the star of this story is mad Samantha in her mad crusade for her ideal country home. She is stark loony, and the way she keeps refusing to be put down – even after discovering that her house is the Norman Bates Motel of the area – as she plans another crazy coup… well, she is hilarious. She makes no apologies for her crassness, and boy, is she bad.
I confess my eyes glaze over when it comes to Mark and Rosie and Rosie’s love… square with a farmer and a reclusive rock star. Rosie’s behavior is ripe for abuse by men, and boy, those men don’t hesitate to use, use, use this dumb woman mercilessly. Rosie feels guilty for standing up for herself, and when she imagines those poor men sad and blue, immediately she apologizes – next time, she will not upset her man again, okay? I have no idea how she has a rock star crazy over her, but that’s pop lit for you – stupidity rules in the end. Let’s just say if Rosie in a bus hits her head hard on the roof and her brain pops out of her nose onto the floor, she wouldn’t be any different from when she still has brains.
And the problem hence sits in when the author concentrates on Rosie’s love square towards the late third of the story. I don’t want to read about some doormat weeping because she has made the three men in her life so blue. There’s a reason why Rosie is happy playing with cows, and I tell you it’s probably not because she’s an animal lover. Devoid of any personality apart from docile dullness, she just couldn’t keep the story moving. Where’s Samantha? Oh yeah, punished for being not docile and sheeplike.
Samantha saves this story. She is fun, sort of like Cruella De Vil rampaging through the countryside in search for glamor that befits the delusions of grandeur of hers. But Wendy Holden has this idea that I will empathize with Rosie more. Please, that brown cow? Yeeech.